A love affair with South African road trips
May 22, 2013
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I’m not exactly sure when my love affair with road trips began, but I’m fairly sure it was embedded in me from very young age. During the first few years of my life, my family spent a lot of time in our car, travelling between Port Elizabeth, where we lived, and Durban, where my grandparents were.

I have vague memories of the long drive through the villages of then Transkei (there were still borders in those days) with my family. We’d stop on the side of our road to eat our padkos* – there were no Ultra City stores, so hot dogs, samoosas and sandwhiches were brought from home. No Nintendo either, just hours of singalong to Bob Marley and the Beatles and endless games of ‘I spy‘.


south africa road trip

We sometimes stopped off along the Wild coast, my father would go fishing, while my brothers and I would play on the beach, pick shells and get up to mischief.  I remember spotting Xhosa boys with painted faces peeping through bush, as fascinated by us as we were by them. My mom told me to that they were undergoing initiation. It sounded scary to me, but I was fascinated, tired of my little brothers, I wanted to play with the big kids.

I think my love affair with road-tripping, and the Eastern Cape started then. It took me a some  time to rekindle  this love. After uni, I took a road trip with my brothers and some exchange student friends down the Eastern Cape. We stayed at backpackers en route – Coffee Bay, Chintsa and Jeffreys Bay were our ports of call – the car was filled with surfboards, a giant tent, pasta  and beer.  I found a new sense of freedom in that trip, my wanderlust and love for African travel revived. I knew I had to travel, to explore South Africa and this continent some more.  I haven’t stopped since.

Road trips make the journey the adventure.  The simple act of moving through changing landscapes, seeing the sights and not having to rush becomes your trip. The time spent with good friends, the quick stop to buy fresh fruit from the local padstal*, enjoy the wildflowers and the anticipation of a good coffee…  memories created.

I recently came across this lovely video, of a road trip down the East Coast of South Africa. Its  beautifully shot,   tempting me to get on road again and explore beautiful Mzansi again and again…

The video was made by vlogger Ben Brown. Ben says:

I flew to Cape Town to drive east in a large Land Rover full of amazing humans. I had the time of my life, I can’t even begin to describe how beautiful South Africa is. We surfed A LOT and drove on some challenging road and met heaps of beautiful people. Thank you 🙂

Ben’s scenic shots of the Wild Coast are breathtaking, reminding me of the many awesome road trips I have taken up and down the coast, and the good times had with my friends. For more awesome vlogs by Ben, check out his Youtube channel.

What is your favourite South African road trip?  Share your thoughts in the comments below.


*padkos – Afrikaans word meaning ‘road food’. I think the Afrikaans word sounds better.
*padstal – Afrikaans word meaning ‘road stall’. Again, the English version is just bland.



About author

Meruschka Govender

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There are 17 comments

  • Nice post!

    I love roadtrips, too. One of my favourites was when my companions cancelled at the last minute and I decided to go alone. It was Cape Town to PE along Route 62, and back through the Garden Route – 10 whole days, just me and the road!

    Roadtrips with good companions are great, of course, but this one gave me the freedom to do as I pleased, to leave the route and explore on a whim, to think and ponder on things that needed pondering, to book into guesthouses/hotels of my choice without any compromise to others’ choices, to change my mind, to hang out with quirky locals, and so on and son – great memories!

    • mzansigirl says:

      Thanks for the comment Francoise. I love Route 62, though must admit I haven’t done a road trip alone, its always been something I did with friends or family. Something to consider for a future trip.

      I once did random road trip from Cape Town to Durban with 4 complete strangers, which ended up being so much fun. I guess I was lucky though.

  • Gabriel Musante says:

    I love road trips, I love road movies and think flying is a different thing that can’t be compared. Drove from Jo’Burg to Durban, from Durban to Polokwane and back to Pretoria during the World Cup. A couple of years later I drove the Garden Route up to the Eastern Cape. Guess my favourite so far have been the Panorama Route down to Nelspruit and some parts of the Drive past Plettenberg Bay until Port Elizabeth. Also enjoyed the short segment between Stellenbosch and Franschoek. Keep driving!

    • mzansigirl says:

      Hi Gabriel
      I agree, road trips are the best, you can’t compare to flying! South Africa has so many awesome road trips, its difficult to choose. Hope you come back and explore more of SA by road!

  • Di Brown says:

    Love road trips. Epic one in 1980, my honeymoon, 9000km, 7 weeks on a 1000cc HONDA CBX. Cape Town, Garden Route, Free State, Panorama, Durban, south coast, and home. Met fantastic people and really saw the country for the first time. Hooked ever since then.
    Another great one was in 2009, with my best friend, Cape Town to Windhoek, to Swakopmund for my son s wedding. We stopped at every single PEP store on the way, took pics and bought something too. Took our time getting there as each town or village must be explored. Think I need to start my own blog, lol

    • mzansigirl says:

      Hi Di. Sounds like you had an epic honeymoon! I like the idea of a road trip theme like your PEP store one. I remember a friend and I on an Australian road trip where we were on a ‘secret’ mission to find the best road-side pie. It was winter, the pies were hot and steamy. We ate a lot of pies, some better than others. We even developed our own ranking system. It was so much fun!

  • Girl Roaming says:

    I absolutely love road trips, the Garden Route and Panorama Route are my current favourites. Came across your post while looking for inspiration for planning my next road trip. I’ll be off to Clarens soon and will be exploring the Highlands Route. Can hardly wait, perhaps it’ll become a new favourite.

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  • James Lang says:

    Nothing better than a road trip with friends, we do one every year down to the Cape, spent a few epic nights at the Cascade Manor in Paarl, the best part of long road trips is making up crazy road trip rules! I can’t wait to hit up Cape Town again this December!

  • Grant Nicol (@Grant_za) says:

    Great Post !!

    Road trips are definitely something special. My favourite Road trip in South Africa is definitely any road heading east in Mpumalanga/Limpopo. My favourites Being the Schoemanskloof road and the R539/R37 through Rosehaugh up to Sabie. The best part of the road trip is reaching the Escarpment and seeing the Lowveld open up in front of you !

    • mzansigirl says:

      I love that drive, its definitely in my top 3 SA road trips… it’s one of those roads that makes me with I could ride a motorbike. Too lovely!

  • Lenka Henrik says:

    Road trips are always amazing. I am a great lover of road trips. Its amazing to drive along the Garden Route between tropical forests and beaches. South Africa is a beautiful country to explore.

  • Frank says:

    Hi Merushka. I’ve heard nothing but great things about South Africa and I hope to go in the near future. My ex-boss comes from down the road from you, in George, and has been telling me to visit the country for years (I lived in Zambia as a child but in those days nobody went to SA).
    Great job with the blog, I’ll make sure to follow.
    Frank (bbqboy)

  • mzansigirl says:

    Hi Frank.
    Thanks for stopping by 🙂 Your ex-boss is right. I really hope you get to visit South Africa soon. There is so much to experience in this wonderful country and in the region. It will be very different from your experience growing up in Zambia. Shout if you need any travel planning advice.

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